Local Rhythms – Try Some Promotion

I’d like you to try an experiment.  Locate a teenager.  Son, daughter, nephew or the kid who shovels your driveway, it doesn’t really matter – as long as they’re a music fan.  Look for kids who tend to wear lots of t-shirts with names you don’t recognize.

Or an iPod – that’s another good clue.

Ask them to name their favorite bands.  Chances are, they’ll recite a pretty long list.  

OK, here’s the fun part – try to locate some of them.

Time was, every town had a record store.  These days, there’s Music Matters and Newbury Comics in West Lebanon; for most of us, though, big box stores like Wal-Mart or Best Buy are it.   

After fighting traffic and steadily growing weary of clerk’s blank stares, you’ll buy a gift card.  Worth one, perhaps two items on a young fan’s holiday list.

On the other hand, purchasing credit at an online music store – iTunes is the most popular, but by no means the only one – means more variety and bang for the buck. 

The record business is floundering because there aren’t many good albums.  But there are a lot of good songs, and for that, a la carte is where it’s at.

Hold the power ballad – I’ll take a double order of rock steady. 

Of course, this doesn’t exactly sit well with the folks making – er, selling the music.  Jermaine Dupree, an industry executive, excoriated iTunes recently.  The latest release from Dupree’s client Jay-Z is available online, but only as a “complete work.”

He compared selling music by the track to hawking torn-off pieces of an Andy Warhol painting.   

It’s odd that Dupree cites Warhol, as the ubiquity of his work – prints, magazine covers, t-shirts, postcards – is a big reason why it’s so familiar today.

“Tearing a corner” from a musical masterpiece (though I have a hard time thinking of “American Gangster” in such terms) doesn’t alter the work.  It’s not like there’s only one painting.  You can buy the whole thing if you wish, and I’ll just grab a song – which may whet my appetite for more. 

It’s called consumer choice.  For some, though, the concept of free markets is hard to grasp.

Dupree also complained that “books aren’t sold by the chapter.”  He’s right.  The Internet, with no printing or mailing costs, makes it infinitely easier to give it away.  Check out the New York Times Book Review, and you’ll find a link with most write-ups. 

That, Mr. Dupree, is called promotion.   You should try it sometime.

What’s happening in the coming days? 

Wednesday: Handel’s Messiah, Hopkins Center – With the holiday shopping season underway, it’s a good time to remember what a good many people are celebrating.  First performed in Dublin in 1742, this edition of Handel’s Messiah is particularly special, with celebrated German conductor Helmuth Rilling leading the Handel Society.  If there’s a chorale sample more ubiquitous than “Hallelujah,” I haven’t heard it. 

Thursday: Billy Rosen Quartet, Sophie & Zeke’s – Since introducing live music 18 months ago, this downtown Claremont restaurant has found its sweet spot is jazz.  Of all the combos that pass through, Rosen’s is probably my favorite.  These four musicians possess a breathtaking ability to communicate, trading solos and finding infectious grooves with ease.  Good jazz remakes the familiar into something surprising and new, and they have that in spades. 

Friday: Spare Change Bluegrass Band, Salt Hill 2 –Joe Stallsmith’s name comes up a lot in the history of area music.  He fronts a few different bands; this one has an old time feel and features some incredible picking.  The three-piece – guitar, mandolin and fiddle – moves from Nashville to Texas, with a long walk along the Blue Ridge Mountains.  Fire up the Orange Blossom special, and enjoy some Americana.

Saturday: Mighty Sam McClain, Blow-Me-Down Grange Hall – This should be a lot of fun.  McClain, who lives in Southern New Hampshire, sings soul with abandon, backed by a seven piece band that will rattle the walls of this venerable Plainfield building.  His music earned him Grammy nominations and appearances on TV shows like “Ally McBeal.”   

Sunday: Area Choir, Newport Congregational Church – This event (with one performance Saturday and two Sunday), brings together the best voices from churches throughout the region for a Christmas sing.  It’s always a seasonal highlight, featuring not-so-often-heard hymns along with holiday favorites, when those in the pews are invited to join in.  There’s no admission charge, but a donation is welcome. 

Tuesday: Alejandro Escovedo, Boccelli’s – One of the more luminous acts to play downtown Bellows Falls, Escovedo has a widely varied background.  He was an early progenitor of punk in the late ‘70’s with the Nuns, then moved on to country rock with Rank and File.  Always a step ahead of the rest, his latest release, “Boxing Mirror,” reflects a spiritual awakening – but he’ll still play “I Wanna Be Your Dog” in concert.